I met Julia on a river cruise in Tasmania. A naturopath and hypnotist by profession, Julia looked like any other sixty-something Melbournite, so it took me by surprise when I discovered she was on a month-long bush camping journey through Tasmania – on her own.
“My husband doesn’t like bush camping, so I left him at home,” she said. “He needs to be in close vicinity to cappuccinos at all times.”
I could relate. To the cappuccinos, that is. Only in recent years have I come to love the outdoors enough to part ways with lattes for long stretches of time.
Julia’s story fascinated me. Craving rejuvenation away from the onus of helping other people through their problems, Julia had packed up her 4WD, ferried over to Tasmania, and made a temporary home for herself among the whisper of gums and birdsong. Alone.
I liked Julia. I loved that she was not afraid to do her own thing and that her idea of a holiday was absolute solitude in one of the most remote and wild places you can find. She had no problem being lonely, nor was she apologetic about going on an adventure without her outdoors-avoidant hubby. She wanted a wild adventure, he didn’t, so she went alone.
When I told a friend I was heading to Tasmania to get some writing done, she said: “Alone? So you’re just going to sit on your own in restaurants?” It’s kind of funny to think that the scariest part of travelling alone could be booking a table for one. Dining by candlelight and gazing across the table at absolutely nobody is admittedly rather awkward.
But is that a good reason not to do it?
Among many other lessons learned during my recent ten-day silent meditation retreat, I found out how to comfortably sit inside of uncomfortable feelings. I discovered that if I don’t hook into my worries and instead focus on the present moment—the smells, sounds and sensations of Now—then there is no such thing as awkwardness or loneliness.
In fact, loneliness can bring you back to your centre.
While camping might not be your cup of tea, going on a solo adventure is one of the most balancing activities you can engage in, especially for a woman like Julia.
People who take on the role of being the nurturers in their families, communities, and jobs often put their own well-being last. Who they are and what they love can easily be pushed aside for what other people want; what other people need.
Someone like this might struggle to pursue anything on her own because ‘me’ time feels like self-indulgence, neglect or flat out selfishness. If this goes on unchecked, she can forget what it is that she actually loves when it’s not stitched to making other people happy.
Then her identity gets lost. Her sanity is in jeopardy.
Julia, a therapist by profession, wasn’t going to let that happen to her. So she packed up her camper and left.
On a plane, during the safety instruction, the advice is always to put the oxygen over your own mouth before you put it on your kids or anyone else. For if you are not able to keep yourself alive and well, then what good will you be to others?
This is why it’s so important to learn how to love your own company, to travel solo, to dine for one – even if it’s awkward. We are each living out our own journeys and so we must take care of our own needs, desires, and dreams. We must learn to give generosity to ourselves so that we can suck the marrow from life, even if our companions can’t part ways with good coffee.
Sometimes this means flying solo to deepen your relationship with yourself.
This article originally appeared on The Fearful Adventurer and is republished here with permission. Torre DeRoche is the author of The Worrier’s Guide to the End of the World, a memoir about picking up the pieces after a breakup by walking through Tuscany, and then India, in the company of one friend, one bad pair of shoes and a whole lot of wine.